More driver news this past week as the NASCAR Xfinity Series lineup begins to take shape for 2023.
Joe Gibbs Racing officially announced Sammy Smith and John Hunter Nemechek as their full-time drivers for 2023. Ryan Truex will race JGR’s “all-star” car for six races, Sage Karam returns to Alpha Prime, and Brett Moffitt has a full-time seat with AM Racing.
Joe Gibbs Racing locks up their lineup:
At the time of my previous NASCAR Xfinity Series driver lineup article, Joe Gibbs Racing had not revealed any concrete plans for their 2023 Xfinity Series team. That all changed this past week, with the announcement of Sammy Smith and John Hunter Nemechek to their full-time cars for 2023.
Two of the highest-profile available seats on the Xfinity Series grid were filled with the guys generally everyone expected them to be filled by. Sammy Smith performed well in his gig in the JGR “all-star” part-time car, putting him in pole position for a drive. Smith will drive the #18 Toyota Supra for Joe Gibbs Racing.
“Sammy is a fantastic addition to our 2023 Xfinity lineup. He proved to have the passion and the talent to necessary to compete for wins in the races he ran for us in 2022,” said Steve DeSouza, NASCAR Xfinity Series and Driver Development Executive Vice President. “We are excited to get him in the No. 18 full-time and know he will be competitive from the jump.”
Nemechek gets promoted from the Truck Series back to a full-time ride in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Few drivers are more deserving of the seat than Nemechek. The winner of seven races across the Truck Series in 2021 and 2022 with Kyle Busch Motorsports, Nemechek was a full-time Cup Series driver for Front Row Motorsports in 2020. His last full-time Xfinity Series season was in 2019.
Instead of taking the #54 used by Ty Gibbs, John Hunter will take the #20 Supra for Joe Gibbs Racing. JGR even posted a video celebrating the #20 car in recent Xfinity Series history when announcing Nemechek would take the ride.
— Joe Gibbs Racing (@JoeGibbsRacing) December 8, 2022
That leaves just the “all-star” #19, which will be Ryan Truex‘s ride for at least six races in 2023. Truex ran five races for JGR in 2022, with three top-five finishes in those races. Truex is a long-time veteran of NASCAR’s national series and even raced for Joe Gibbs Racing more than a decade ago in both 2011 and 2012.
Sage Karam returns to Alpha Prime:
Sage Karam has been around the block as far as racing in the US goes, and he’ll return to the Alpha Prime Racing driver lineup for select races in 2023. Karam came up through the Indy ladder, racing open-wheel cars, and is a nine-time veteran of the Indianapolis 500. Karam has also competed in the IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship, including a full-time season in 2018 with 3GT Racing, and even tried his hand at Rallycross in both the American Rallycross series and the standalone Nitro Rallycross series.
“Sage has managed the learning curve from open wheel to stock car racing extremely well given his limited starts in the series,” said Tommy Joe Martins, Alpha Prime Racing’s co-owner and General Manager. “He continues to grow and show more and more speed and discipline each time he hits the track. Sage puts us in a great position to contend for our first win, and our team couldn’t be more excited to have him back for 2023.”
Notably, for the first time in a decade, Sage Karam has no plans to find an IndyCar seat for the Indy 500 in May. In an interview on Sirius XM NASCAR Radio on December 8, Karam confirmed that his main racing focus for 2023 will be his part-time schedule with Alpha Prime, and he’ll make his debut for the team at the Atlanta Xfinity Series race in March.
Brett Moffitt joins AM Racing on a full-time basis:
🚨🚨 FUTURE FOCUSED! 🚨🚨
— AM Racing (@AMRacingNASCAR) December 12, 2022
Brett Moffitt, who ran most of the 2022 season in the #02 Our Motorsports Chevy, will be joining AM Racing for a full-time ride in 2023. As the above tweet mentions, AM will switch from Chevy to Ford to form a technical alliance with Stewart-Haas Racing and Ford Performance. It’s AM Racing’s first full-time season in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
“This is an integral move for AM Racing and our future in NASCAR,” said AM Racing team principal Kevin Cywinski. “AM Racing is committed to ensuring that we are taking the necessary measures to not only give our team but Brett (Moffitt) the opportunity to be competitive from the time we show up to Daytona in February – which is something this group deserves.”
“We are also grateful to have formed a technical alliance with Stewart-Haas Racing and Ford Performance. With their leadership and direction – it should offer the opportunity for our team to contend for a spot in the Xfinity Series Playoffs in our inaugural season.”
Brett Moffitt was the 2015 Cup Series Rookie of the Year but has mostly raced in Xfinity and the Truck Series since. He has previous experience with AM Racing, running the Knoxville dirt race with the team in the Truck Series for the past two seasons.
Current Confirmed 2032 Lineup:
- JR Motorsports: Sam Mayer, Justin Allgaier, Josh Berry, Brandon Jones, Dale Earnhardt Jr. (two races)
- Joe Gibbs Racing: Sammy Smith, John Hunter Nemechek, Ryan Truex (six races)
- Kaulig Racing: Landon Cassill, Daniel Hemric, Chandler Smith
- Stewart-Haas Racing: Cole Custer, Riley Herbst
- Richard Childress Racing: Sheldon Creed
- Big Machine Racing: Parker Kligerman
- JD Motorsports: Bayley Currey
- Jesse Iwuji Motorsports: Jesse Iwuji, Kyle Weatherman
- RSS Racing: Ryan Sieg
- AM Racing: Austin Wayne Self, Brett Moffitt
- BJ McLeod Motorsports: Garrett Smithley
- Jeremy Clements Racing: Jeremy Clements
- Alpha Prime Racing: Ryan Ellis, Sage Karam (part-time)
- ACG Motorsports (part-time): Chris Cockrum
- Hendrick Motorsports (part-time): Kyle Larson, Alex Bowman